Recumbent Bikes

Photo of Brox Quadricycle

The Brox Quadricycle.

Stephan Thonett is a German fellow who specializes in moving things with human powered vehicles, and this is the machine he likes best for that job. I really wanted one of these, but being cheap I decided to build something along the same lines. Check out his site (yes, it's in English), called Radlast (rough translation: "CycleCargo").

Spending more time on my bike had become much easier to do, because in the spring of 1997 I finally bought a recumbent bicycle (or bent, as some of us call them). I have always been interested in this type of vehicle, and the more a rode my regular bike the more the benefits of a recumbent would become noticeable. No matter what I did with my upright bike, I never found it comfortable for trips of more than 30 minutes. A recumbent causes none of the pressure points - wrists, neck, butt, etc., that an upright does. But I had always thought they were too expensive (well, at least for a guy on a musician's income...). My brother Mike and I would talk about it, and he decided to go ahead and put one together. He was starting to suffer wrist problems from programming all day long, and it was getting harder to use his upright bike. So, he bought an Infinity frameset, and then cannibilized an old mountain bike for the parts. After I rode this bike, I really had to get one! I then found out that a bike store near Toronto was selling old-stock recumbents for a good price.

The store is called the Bicycle Spokesman (located in Richmond Hill), and I talked to Joe Guttman, who has a great selection, and is very knowledgeable. He had a very good price on a Linear, which is a long wheelbase recumbent, and one of the very few that folds. So the next time I was down that way, I took the bike out for a test ride - in mid-February! I rode for about 45 minutes in the cold, with my mitts on, and decided that this was the bent for me (well, the price really helped that decision...). Once I got the bike back to Ottawa, (where there was a LOT more snow and slush on the ground) I had to wait until April to ride it. When I finally did ride, it took a little getting used to, but soon I was a happy puppy, and learned to accept the comments and stares I got from people. The folks who smile most are kids (who usually rave about it), and women. Any negativity about the bent seems to come from young males, or hardcore road cyclists (it seems that many of them are rather conservative about what constitutes a "bike").

photo of two Linears

Fellow Linear owner Gosse van Oosten (visiting from London, Ont.)
and myself, ready for ride around Ottawa. (photo by Don Thierry.)

But most people just smile, point, or make positive comments. I was cycling along a bike path during the late day rush hour, when a fellow came up and waited with me at a light. He was coming from the office, and had a big pack on his back, and looked a little out of breath. He looked over at me sitting comfortably on the Linear and said "That looks like a much better idea!" Another favourite moment was while flying down a long hill in Gatineau Park, and I was gaining on a cyclist who was in full tuck. I slowly caught up with him (neither of us was pedalling) and gradually passed him. As I got ahead of him I looked at my cyclecomputer and the speed showed 80kph (about 50mph)! Of course, that was 20kph over the posted speed limit. And at those sort of speeds on a bike one gets to contemplate on adrenalin-inducing thoughts such as "l hope the wheel quick-releases are snugged tight enough"...

This bent is not that low compared to some, and it's nice to sit back and enjoy the view from the bike. While in traffic, I seem to get a lot more respect from drivers, and when I need to take a lane nobody gives me a hard time. If I'm on my upright bike I feel like I've become invisible again, with drivers taking more chances and generally being less tolerant. The recumbent for some reason, whether it's just weird looking, or just that it looks bigger because of its length and the fact that I'm 6'3", seems to command a modicum of respect. Also, the bike is less manouverable than a mountain bike, so the tendency to curb hop and zoom in and out of traffic is not there. I stick to the road and am more predictable in my driving habits, so perhaps drivers respect that. This bike has served me very well, and it has been one of the best purchases I ever made!

(Click on the thumbnails for the larger pictures.)

Here's my Linear with its tailbox and homebuilt trailer attached.

A closer look of the bike itself.

Even closer. You can see the added
bar-ends and shifters, chaintubes,
lumbar pad and of course, the tailbox).


I do use my bike to get just about everywhere I need to go, and I try to get some distance trips in every now and then, but so far I haven't done anything of more than 60K one way. A dream would be to do a proper tour some day. I love reading travelogues from others who have toured cross-country, and I think I would be up to the challenges that one would face. (Having done that many times while touring as a musician, I know of the many mishaps that add to the adventure!) I do have some camping experience, and the trailer would be perfect for hauling the necessities. I guess the important thing would be just getting in shape for the amount of distance one would plan to cover. Maybe some day...

A while back I had an article published in an online magazine. Bryan Ball, the Editor of "Bent Rider OnLine", a recumbent cycling zine, saw my reply to a cycling newsgroup posting about simplifying one's life. He emailed me and asked if I would like to write further about this subject. You can read my contribution in the last issue (vol. 9) under Elegant Simplicity.


A few years ago I wrote an article about recumbents for the Peace and Environment News (PEN), a paper published here in Ottawa by the Peace and Environment Resource Centre, of which I've been a volunteer for many years (see my Enviro page for more details). It is archived at the PERC's website under this link for The PEN.


I'm also involved in running Ottawa's Re-Cycles Bicycle Co-op. More about this cool place at my Enviro page.


Other bike pages on my site:

  • Cycling Main Page

  • "Kyoto" Cargo Trike

  • Folding Bikes

  • Raleigh Superbe

  • Rainbow Chopper

  • Hybridized Hybrid

  • Bee Bike

  • CCM Roadster

  • Winter Bike

  • Bike Utility Trailer

  • BIG Bike Utility Trailer

  • Tailbox

  • Saving a 3-speed

  • Mike's Bikes

  • Bike Links

  • Home

    Copyright 2007 Mark Rehder; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.